HOLLYWOOD, Fla.-New York Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio had been dead only a few days when a hospital founded by the Hall of Fame slugger began receiving calls from some confused and suspicious people.
At least 10 callers claimed they had been solicited by phone to donate money "for baskets for terminally ill children" at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., said Lisa Kronhaus, a spokeswoman for the 150-bed, not-for-profit facility. The trouble is that neither the hospital nor its foundation solicits donations, nor has the facility authorized anyone to solicit in its name, she said.
"At least one woman wrote out a check, then had second thoughts and called us to verify," Kronhaus said. "These people are playing on people's sympathies, using buzzwords like 'terminally ill' to commit fraud. They know people feel sorry for sick kids. It undermines the work we do."
One woman who had been solicited was presented with a donor form from the Florida Children's Foundation, an Orlando-based registered fund-raiser. The foundation raised $198,000 last year, donating $45,000 to unnamed charities, according to its filings.
Terry Meltzer, director of Florida Children's Foundation, denied his organization was soliciting for Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital or the hospital's foundation.
Meltzer said his staff "tries to stay away from" mentioning specific charities in their solicitations.
"We put on events ourselves," Meltzer said. "We decide what to do, and then we do it. We do things for underprivileged children."
Rudy Hamrick, regulatory program administrator at the Division of Consumer Services of the Florida Department of Agriculture, said Florida Children's Foundation was a for-profit corporation that was dissolved in 1997 for failing to file an annual report.
The hospital advises people who are solicited to contact their local police departments, the Florida attorney general's office or the Division of Consumer Services.
Richard Wade, a spokesman for the American Hospital Association, said a spate of hospital fund-raising scams occurred in the 1980s. "But we haven't heard much about it lately," he said.